Thunderheist were blessed (cursed?) with a huge amount of hype quite early in their career that propelled them into a busy schedule of touring long before they were ready to drop their full album. We were a bit worried that their club-ready booty-rap would be passé by the time it came out, and that it would be tough to stretch tracks in what's essentially a singles-based genre into a full album. [rssbreak] Many would argue that hipster-hop has already reached the end of its life cycle, and they have a point.
Supergroups are rarely as evenly balanced as Tinted Windows, the power pop powerhouse consisting of boy band veteran Taylor Hanson, Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha, and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. Hanson's participation in this project is unexpected only to those not paying close attention. Ever since the days of "MMM Bop," Hanson has shown a flair for sugary pure pop, something he continued to develop as he and his brothers turned from teen sensations into working troubadours, but their steady, solid work in the 2000s never got as much attention as their first hits, so many listeners may be surprised to hear how comfortable he is with this fuzzy, old-fashioned power pop.
There is nothing at all groundbreaking about what Isis and Grahm Zilla do on their first full-length effort as Thunderheist. This is music for the clubs, for sweaty nights on overcrowded dancefloors with the air smelling of a potent mix of sweat and vodka-based drinks. Every track on this self-titled album is utterly perfect for such a situation. Zilla’s production sounds appropriately futuristic without getting in the way of the beats, and Isis’ oft-chanted vocals are charismatic without ever becoming grating.
The album has historically been the artistic achievement by which recording artists are judged. Occasionally an act can sustain a career by having a great live show or consistently releasing well-done singles, but usually the best path to a permanent place in the hearts of fans is the album. Unfortunately for Thunderheist, their self-titled debut makes it absolutely clear that in their current carnation, with their current sensibility, they are very much not an album band.
Equally decorative as it is disparaging, the term "hipster rap" comes off Toronto duo Thunderheist like cartoon stink lines. On the mic, frontlady Isis is so deadpan you wonder if she even knows it, especially when championing sex and conspicuous consumption with the aplomb of a Top 40 rapper. Producer Grahm Zilla shows off a deep record collection spanning from disco to Detroit techno to old school hip-hop, though his retro rehashing lacks the obsessive enthusiasm of fellow indie rap acts Lupe Fiasco and the Cool Kids.